A Slip of a Girl

Written by Patricia Reilly Giff
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

At her mother’s deathbed, Anna Mallon promises to take care of her little sister Nuala, as well as her family’s house and land. These are difficult promises to keep, as the past few harvests have been poor and their English landowner keeps raising the taxes. Many of the Irish around her have been evicted, their land turned into sheep pasture, their houses rented to Englishmen. Anna’s other siblings have fled their poverty with dreams of plenty in America, but Anna and her father have Irish roots. They will stay in County Longford, Ireland, and fight to keep what is theirs. But what can a “slip of a girl” do against the powerful English?

Giff’s novel is written in beautiful, poignant verse interspersed with photographs from the National Library of Ireland. Anna is a strong, sympathetic character. Readers get a full sense of the desperation of the time and the incredible injustices occurring. Although fictional, the story is based on the author’s great-grandmother and her family’s fight to keep their home during the Drumlish Land War. Includes a glossary of terms and an author’s note. Recommended for children (and adults) interested in Irish history. Ages 10-14.